Sacred Families

by José Donoso.Knopf, $7.95. Mr. Donoso’s three long short stories are located in and about Barcelona, but his characters are internationally familiar. They belong to that artistic intelligentsia whose members are never as talented or as brilliant as they like to believe. They are, in short, prosperous phonies busily deceiving themselves and each other, and their lives are a mixture of pose and dream. Mr. Donoso’s system in these tales is to carry the pose, or the dream, or both into literal action which necessarily becomes bizarre fantasy. The painted doll of a woman, for example, turns into a painted doll. That seems simple enough, as a start, but quickly leads to complications bordering the unspeakable. What sort of man wants to make love to a doll, and what does a woman think of such a man? The answer to that last question is, like everything else in these amusing stories, clever, malicious, and provocative. Translated by Andrée Conrad.